Three Words that Changed Everything

It’s hard to tell people you’re pregnant again when they know you’ve already lost one baby. So I decided to keep the news to myself. It may be silly, but there is a reason baseball players don’t mention the no-hitter in progress. Sometimes talking about it affects it.

When you’re fortunate enough to have a second chance like we have now, you never forget that dread, pain, and sadness can be waiting for you at the next doctor’s appointment.

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It was at my wife’s second doctor’s appointment when we got the news. I was out of town on business, at dinner with some co-workers, when my phone rang. It was one week to the day after I had decided to tell my friends the good news.

“They can’t find the heartbeat.”

She was still sitting in the doctor’s office, and I had been texting her for an update. When she knew it wasn’t just a glitch in the fetal heartbeat monitor, she called me.

“The nurse spent a long time trying to find it. Didn’t say a thing. Couldn’t look me in the eyes either. She knew, but was stalling until the doctor could come in with the news. So. It’s gone.”

She said this last bit with a detached, matter-of-fact tone that revealed the weight of her sadness.

I left my colleagues in the middle of dinner without saying goodbye. I wouldn’t have known what to say anyway. I drove the three hours home in the rain (of course it had to be raining that night). My body was racked with guilt: I should’ve been there with her. This wouldn’t have happened if I was there by her side. Why had I decided to tell everyone so soon? This was my fault.

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My wife and I both turn 36 this year. We’re not young anymore, so if we’re going to try this again, it should be now. But are we really ready to be parents?

I prefer sleeping until noon on the weekends. I don’t own an umbrella. I wear jeans and tennis shoes to a job I hate, shave once a week, and am usually the guy playing air guitar with too much zeal at the bar late at night. Dads are supposed to wear a suit and tie to a job they like, where they make important decisions that affect other people. They are supposed to smell like aftershave and drive reasonable sedans with anti-lock brakes and power locks. I ride the bus and carry my shit in a backpack.

And I hate clutter. I’m not a scrub the counters, vacuum every week, sanitize the toilet kind of guy, but I do like to pick things up and keep the place clean and organized. If cleanliness is godliness, kids are the antichrist. My stomach aches and I get nervous sweats at the thought of little toys covering every inch of my house; of living in a constant state of chaos.

And then there’s the poop. My mild OCD has me already washing my hands ten times a day, and all I touch is a keyboard at work. I’m expected to handle dirty diapers?

How is this going to work? Would I really be a good dad?

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I was at my wife’s side at her second appointment with the doctor last week. The doctor squeezed a bit of gel onto her stomach, and considering their reactions, I was clearly the only one who thought it sounded like a wet fart. I caught my laugh the second it left my mouth, coughing a little to hide my immaturity. The doctor turned on the heart monitor and placed it on my wife’s exposed belly to start the most important search of our lives. And then…nothing.

A gentle squeeze of my wife’s hand. A careful repositioning of the monitor by the doctor. A very tense minute that felt more like a life. And then:

“There it is.”

Three words that changed everything.

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My wife has started to tell people. Friends, coworkers, cousins. Her mom has already bought a closets-worth of clothes. I’ve told my mom, but no one else. I’m still waiting. Call me superstitious, call me paranoid. We have a third appointment in a couple of weeks, and I don’t want to jinx this no-hitter. I want to do everything I can to protect my kid.

That’s what Dads do.

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